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Full text of "Linguistic Survey Of India Vol Ii Mon Khmer Siamese Chinese Families"

TAI GROUP,

GENERAL INTRODUCTION.
The Tai or Sham languages all belong to the Siamese-Chinese family of tbo ludo-
CMnese forms of speech. They hence show many points of contact with Chinese.
The signification of the word * Tai', which is used by all branches of the Shams
the Siamese, is unknown. The Siamese change the first letter to Th^ propounds to
word * Thai' and giving it the meaning ofe free'. This appears to bo a modification of
the original word to commemorate some prominent event in their early Mstory. Tlie
word * 8mm' is most probably an Anglicism of tne Portuguese or Italian £ Sciam', whioh
is an attempt to write 'Sham'. The origin of the word 'Sham* or, os tbc Bw?/se^
pronounce it,' Shan' itself is as yet an unexplained riddle. I shall henceforth employ
the Burmese spelling of the name.
The Tai1 race, in its different branches, is beyond all question the most widely eprev I
of any in the Indo-Chinese Peninsula and even in parts beyond the Peninsula, and it <3
certainly the most numerous. Its members are to be found from Assam to far into iiw
Chinese province of Kwang-si and from Bangkok to the interior of Yun»nan. Pcrktpa
they extend even further. As will be seen, the various forms of languages spoVen hy
them fall into two closely connected groups, a Northern and a Southern The -MI-. ^
includes KMmti, Chinese Shan, and Burmese Shan, together with the aucloiil ,»I.OL
language now extinct; and the latter includes Lao and Siamese. Tliey have seven oiv
tinct forms of written character—the Ahom, the Cis-Sahin Shan, tho Kliauiti, a»i
the Tai Man (Chinese Shan), the Lii and Khun (trans-Sahiu Slians), the Lao, m^ fho
Siamese. *
As" a rule the languages of each group are mutually comprehensible amongst UIUIP-
selves, but the two groups differ somewhat widely. At the same time Ahoni (which is
Northern) contains many forms which have been lost in the modem languages ui Hu-
group, but which still survive in Siamese (which is Southern). The greatest bar to nmtnal
intelligence is said to be that the tones of the same word in different languages do not
always correspond,
South-Western China was the original home of the Tai people, or rather was th«
region where they attained to a marked separate development as a people. Prom (hence
they migrated into Upper Burma. According to Dr. Cushing, these migrations began
about two thousand years ago. Probably the first swarms were small and were, di.a
rather to restlessness of character than to exterior force. Later, however, larger and more
important migrations were undoubtedly due to the pressure of Chinese invasion and con»
quest A great wave of Tai migration descended in the sixth century of our era from the
mountains of Southern fun-nan into the Nam Mau or Shweli Valley and the adjacent
re-ions, and through it that valley became the centre of Shan political power. The early
history of the Shans in Burma is obscure. A powerful kingdom grew up called Mtog
Mau Long. Its capital was originally S6 Lan, about thirteen miles east of the modem
"^^^Uow« is baaed on Mes^, Scott and Hardimau'* 0a»ti*r */ ZTfrer Burma and ike
Rangoon, 1900.